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iGoogle gets video game makers in on the action

The iGoogle start pages get officially sanctioned gaming themes and possibly a more social way to play games with friends.

SAN FRANCISCO--Google unveiled on Wednesday the latest addition to its iGoogle start page service: a collection of themes designed by video game publishers.

The search giant has partnered with nine publishers to come up about two dozen themes from recent games such as Electronic Arts' Spore to arcade classics such as Galaga.

Like other themes produced through the iGoogle themes API, each one will change throughout the day, including with Easter eggs that some developers tucked inside their designs. Unlike gaming designs created by individuals, these can be used by anyone without stepping on copyright and intellectual property.

Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president of search products and user experience, announced the new set of themes at an event as part of this week's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Mayer then hosted a panel of gaming personalities, including Capcom producer Yoshinori Ono, and Charles Huang, co-founder of RedOctane, maker of Guitar Hero.

A new iGoogle theme featuring Nintendo's Link from the Zelda series. Google/Nintendo

Among the topics discussed was how the Web had changed gaming development. The general answer was that game developers and publishers alike are getting much more feedback during the development process, in part from increasingly simpler ways to aggregate information from blogs and message boards, as well as public beta programs.

Huang also noted that user-generated content created inside of games has been on a sharp rise, as witnessed by the number of user-designed tracks that have been created and downloaded in the latest Guitar Hero title--the figure now tops 10 million.

Notably missing from the announcement was any mention of iGoogle as a gaming platform itself. Mayer very quickly mentioned that there would be new things for OpenSocial developers, but that they were not being announced at this time. However, a handful of casual social-gaming services were announced as coming to iGoogle, including Chess.com, Zynga and PlayFish.

Click below to see some shots from the event, including an arcade-style Google swag booth.